Kalighat Paintings refer to the class of paintings and drawings on hand-made paper produced by a group of artists called ‘Patuas’ in the neighbourhood of the famous Kali temple at Kalighat in between 19th and earlier 20th Century.
By the early 19th century the Kalighat Temple was a popular destination for local people, pilgrims and certain foreign visitors as well. With the rise of popularity and fame of the goddess Kali, many of the artisans and craftsmen flocked to Kalighat area to capitalise the new market by selling cheap religious souvenirs to the visitors. Soon after that a number of skilled artists moved to Kolkata from the rural Bengal especially from 24 Paraganas and Midnapore and set up stalls outside the Temple. In the villages they had painted long narrative stories on scrolls of handmade paper often stretched to over 20 feet in length and were known as patachitra. Each section was known as a pat and the artists therefore became known as patuas. The patuas would travel from village to village, unrolling the scroll a section at a time and singing the stories to their audiences. However, the visitors to Kalighat did not want to buy long scrolls which would take a lot of time to paint. The patuas therefore started painting single pictures involving just one or two figures that could be painted quickly with simple forms leaving the background plain and eliminating non- essential details.